Nautical Disaster

A competition-winning best of show brew scaled up to 28-hectoliter (24 barrel) commercial system and released commercially in bottles and kegs.

Contribution: Recipe, Brewer, Bottle Design

The Story

While I’ve worked on the web professionally my entire career, it’s been no secret that one of my side interests is brewing and the craft beer culture that surrounds it. I’ve homebrewed for over five years and taken the time to get a beer judging certification to increase my knowledge and contribute to the local community.

Since my first homebrew batch in 2010, I’ve refined my techniques and recipes on many other beers since. Like any hobby it takes a while to work out the kinks, but after 5 years I feel that what I produce now easily equals many good commercial breweries, and I’ve won a growing collection of medals in competition to boot.

But one of my early batches stands out more than most. Still within my first year of homebrewing I decided to try my hand at a slightly bigger beer in the summer of 2011. Barleywine is a traditional English style of beer that lends itself to long periods of ageing, and a summer brew day made sense to have something available for the winter.

After 8 months of ageing I decided to enter a couple of bottles in the local competition. Judged against over 300 other beers from across western Canada, it won gold in its category and went on to take a Best of Show medal. The prize that year was the opportunity to come in to Russell Brewing and re-brew it on their system for commercial release.

Over the next few months I emailed back and forth with Jack Bensley, Russell’s head brewer, to sort out the scaled-up recipe and set the brew day. I went in on January 18, 2013 to brew which I’ve documented elsewhere.

But beyond collaborating on what went into the bottle, I had a unique opportunity to design the label as well. Just prior to winning the competition I had designed a previous label for Russell in conjunction with Vancouver Craft Beer Week, and it just made sense to everyone that I should design the label for this beer too.

Footnote to this project: Jack moved on to Main Street Brewing some time later, and in autumn 2014 we collaborated again on a much smaller 100L batch of IPA.

Brewday photos by Jonathan Evans

Nautical Disaster Elsewhere